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How much does President Obama's pledge to "not sign a [health care] plan that adds one dime to our deficits – either now or in the future" actually mean? It means about as much as the promise made by members of Congress to protect individuals from the insurance industry.
In a recent op-ed written for Slate Magazine, John Dickerson argues that it will be virtually impossible for President Obama to keep his word and prevent health care expenses from adding to the deficit. Similarly, in this morning's Washington Examiner, Timothy Carney asserts that Congress will not take the steps needed to make good on their promise to protect Americans from insurers.
In his article, Dickerson attacks the validity of the "deficit neutral" rating that the Baucus proposal recently received from the Congressional Budget Office (CBO). He quotes Douglass Holtz-Easkin, the former Director of the CBO:
What they're saying is: 'Your fantasies add up.' I could say to CBO: 'Hi, I'd like to make 5 million a year and live in a 125-room mansion. Does it work?' And CBO says 'yes,' but that isn't [really] going to happen.
However, even if we accept the CBO's rating, Dickerson claims that future lawmakers will not remain faithful to Mr. Obama promise.
If Congress faces pressure from voters or from powerful lobbies like doctors, it could buckle and pass legislation that gets around the law... There's always a rationale handy when political pressure is applied. In a tight spot, Congress finds a way around the law. That's likely to be as true about health care in the future as it is about Social Security in the present.
Time and time again history has shown us that presidents severely underestimate how much money it is going to take to realize their visions. But what about Congress? Can they stay true to their word? Will members of Congress really ignore America's most powerful lobbyists, take on the major insurance companies and protect the interests of every day citizens?
According to the Examiner's Timothy Carney, they won't:
Odds are, however, Congress will follow President Obama's pattern of talking tough, but then pushing policies that enrich the companies at the expense of consumers and taxpayers.
Since the release of a PricewaterhouseCoopers study that was particularly critical of the Baucus proposal, Congressional Democrats have been "talking tough" to the insurance industry. But if Congress was truly serious about taking action against insurers, then it would push the type of reforms that empower individuals and drive down costs.
Among other things, Carney advocates for:
After considering lawmakers' inability to keep past promises and the glum outlook for the pledges made by both Congress and President Obama, one thing becomes clear: the word of Washington elites is about as worthless as estimating the cost of a bill based upon summaries of what that bill may include.